It’s been six months or so since The Walnuts arrived back home from our Motorhome tour of Spain and France and we’ve just started preparing for our annual evening at the Pearson Hall (23rd November, tickets £15, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like tickets. We’d love to see you!).
But even with Sonning coming up there is still only one thing on my mind – the open road.
To be fair when I say just one thing I’m actually thinking of a couple of other related things – guitars, sausages, bagpipes, vineyards, fiddles, idyllic hillsides and extraordinary breakfasts.
This is mainly a story of the open road but it is also how we raised just over £5000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
First, if you’ve not been following things, a bit of background. The Walnuts (a group of middle-aged musicians) were lent a motorhome to travel, play music, eat sausages and collect donations in our bucket everywhere we played. The result was we played 8 gigs in 7 days, travelled to Barcelona and back – a round trip of 2400 miles – and two final gigs when we got home to Berkshire to complete the trip: 10 gigs in 10 days.
I thought the best way to describe our trip was to ask our tour chronicler, Matt Allwright.
DMcG – So Matt what on earth just happened, how did we get here?
Matt – We crossed the pyrenees. Like Hannibal, but the Pyrennes, and without elephants.
DMcG – And do you remember the open road too? I seem to remember you navigating some quite tricky hillside passes?
Matt – Yes, I do remember that. I also remember the other Walnuts being terribly supportive during those manoeuvers. The road was kind to us, in the end, especially considering we were taking a giant white motorhome through places where Motorhomes aren’t supposed to go. My proudest moment was getting the rig into, and out of La Liviniere single handed and without the aid of GPS or Vaseline.
DMcG – What moments stick in your mind, what will you tell your grandchildren.
Matt – I will tell them that Asturians know how to party, that there is no such thing as bad cheese, and that they should always look behind them in case they’re about to step on someone’s bagpipes.
DMcG – Were bagpipes a good addition to the Walnuts.
Matt – I was initially very scared about the addition of the pipes – not because I don’t love Fergus Muirhead. I think I have provided enough evidence of that over the years. I just think it’s a strong flavour, like Tabasco or Gentlemen’s relish. When did you ever look at a nice piece of cheesecake and think – ‘what that really needs is a nice dollop of anchovy on it’? Never, I’m guessing, unless you are Heston Blumenthal. In the end, the pipes went with everything we played, and marked us out from other, duller bands. They also gave a strong signal to chefs everywhere that we would be needing our tea in precisely 45 minutes.
DMcG – What do you think of the bagpiper and fiddler? Did they pull their weight?
Matt – No. Of course they didn’t.
DMcG – Favourite places we played?
Matt – I loved all of them, but La Liviniere was special because of the backdrop and the joy coming from the crowd. What a place. I also have a soft spot for a service station outside Le Mans.
DMcG – Would you do it again?
Matt – Hat. Drop. Heart. Beat.
I loved our trip – we caught up with with old pals and met some amazing new friends.
We make this all sound like a pretty jolly beano but there are two moment that stick in my mind that show the challenge our generation face with dementia. We played in a school in Northern Catalonia to a class of 15 year olds and some were in tears when we explained why we were touring. They clearly had someone living with dementia in their family.
Then, later the same day, in a restaurant in L’Escala on the cost of the mediterranean we played to packed group of retired expats. That morning one of their friends had gone out for his paper and hadn’t made it home. His wife was terrified. They sent out search parties and eventually found him 3 hours later. Too late to join us at the restaurant but a reminder of struggles carers, friends and those living with dementia face on a daily basis.
So get in touch if you’d like SevenSongs to play for you – no audience too small, no situation too embarrassing, no island too remote and no music too live – it might just be me, Davie, or a combination of walnuts. Email me at email@example.com. NB we all have jobs and families so kind of depends on availability so book early.
Meanwhile I will think of the open road and my extraordinary bandmates who freely gave their time and the people and places that made our trip so special.
Our Motorhome was donated for the week by the Caravan and Motorhome of Great Britain and Baileys of Bristol.
Our trip was sponsored Strathearn Distillery, Ibérica Restaurants and Balcony Shirts .
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You can also follow Seven Songs on facebook. Get in touch if you’d like Seven Songs to play for you – no audience too small, no situation too embarrassing, no island too remote and no music too live. Email me at davie.mcgirr@